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The Crazy Architecture of Southern California

Southern California is home to the movie capital of the world. Creativity and imagination is what inspires our culture and our economy. The environment of make-believe allows entrepreneurial spirits to create environments and products that allow us to get lost in our imaginations. These inspirations could not be lost on the architectural world in our region. A British traveler noted after a visit to Southern California in the 1930’s that either “we had lost our minds or he had stumbled into a fantasy universe.” So was the influence of mimetic architecture in Southern California.

The practice of mimetic architecture, also known as novelty or programmatic architecture, is a style of building design popularized in the United States in the first half of the 20th century. It is characterized by unusual building designs that mimic the purpose or function of the building, or the product it is associated with. Mimetic architecture was particularly popular between the 1920s and 1950s, as cars became widespread and freeways were built across America. Some roadside architecture started to be seen as a means for advertising to passing cars. For example, a roadside restaurant might be designed in the shape of a giant hot dog, a coffee shop in the shape of a coffee pot, or a fruit stand in the shape of a piece of fruit.

“If, when you went shopping, you found you could buy cakes in a windmill, ices in a gigantic cream-can, flowers in a huge flowerpot, you might begin to wonder whether you had not stepped through a looking glass or taken a toss down a rabbit burrow and could expect Mad Hatter or White Queen to appear round the next corner.”

British tourist visiting LA, 1930’s

From the iconic Brown Derby, to the numerous wigwam hotels that dotted the region, to giant donuts, ice cream and hotdogs, Southern California have been replete with some of the finest examples of mimetic architecture. While none of these buildings were terribly important in the historical value of the region, others were iconic landmarks that will remain etched in our historical memories and evoke the culture and feel of the Southern California lifestyle.

From the ADG Jobsite

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by Gerald Olesker, CEO, ADG Lighting

 

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Texas Architecture – The Art Deco of Fair Park

Everything in Texas is bigger! Texans have a way of making things larger than life as a way of celebrating their character and heritage. In 1936, the governor of Texas wanted to celebrate the state’s centennial in a big way! He commissioned architect George Dahl to make it happen in a Texas-sized way. Dahl went to work and constructed for the state fair more than 50 art deco buildings for the annual celebration.

The State Fair of Texas is an annual event held in Dallas at the historic Fair Park. The fair has taken place every year since 1886 except for varying periods during World War I and World War II. It begins the last Friday in September and ends 24 days later. While the State Fair of Texas considers quantifying its official attendance figures too much of a hassle, it is still consistently recognized as one of the most highly attended and best state fairs in America as well as Dallas’s signature event.

George Dahl was a prominent architect based in Dallas during the 20th century. His most notable contributions include the Art Deco structures of the State Fair of Texas at Fair Park. He oversaw planning and construction of the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition held during the state fair. He began his career working for the Herbert M. Greene Co. in Dallas. He became a partner in Greene’s firm in 1928. In 1943, Dahl founded his own firm, George Leighton Dahl, Architects and Engineers, Incorporated, with a nationwide practice. Dahl was also a pioneer in fast-track construction. Upon his retirement in 1973, he had produced some 3,000 projects throughout the country that are estimated to be worth $2 billion.

The art deco buildings designed by Dahl and the Centennial Exposition were a hit! More than 6 million people, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt, attended the fair in 1936. The event is credited with helping pull Dallas out of the Great Depression.

From the Factory Floor

Prepping for the week 

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Gerald Olesker, CEO, ADG Lighting

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Los Angeles Architecture: Swinging Back to the Roaring Twenties

“You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.”
~ Mary Pickford

Trends in architecture follow the ebb and flow of society. Our architecture reflects the feelings and image we want to project of the community. Each time there is a change, it reflects a fresh start. Los Angeles is embracing that fresh start with a noticeable change in the face of her architecture.

From the best new bars and eateries, we are seeing the emergence of Art Deco style in the architecture of Los Angeles. This is a significant change in the face of the culture and style of the city. For years, the trend was in modern Scandinavian. White walls and blond woods were the face of our architectural and design face across Los Angeles. Now, were are seeing the strong and bold elements of Art Deco sweep across the city, changing the face of our culture, taking it back to the roaring twenties and classic old Hollywood.

Art Deco, sometimes referred to as Deco, is a style of visual arts, architecture and design that first appeared in France just before World War I. It influenced the design of buildings, furniture, jewelry, fashion, cars, movie theaters, trains, ocean liners, and everyday objects such as radios and vacuum cleaners. It took its name, short for Arts Décoratifs, from the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts) held in Paris in 1925. It combined modernist styles with exceptional craftsmanship and luxurious materials. During the height of its popularity, Art Deco represented luxury, glamour, exuberance, and faith in social and technological progress, especially in Hollywood.

Cities usually have a single architectural identity. Los Angeles is known for many. It was an incubator of the American Craftsman style, and it embraced Beaux-Arts, as well as Spanish Colonial Revival and Mayan Revival, which found a powerful advocate in Frank Lloyd Wright. Art Deco arrived in Los Angeles and took over the design of the city during the decades when movie studios became the cornerstone of an economy that had previously relied primarily on oil. It left a stunning cache of public buildings in its wake.

The Art Deco Society of Los Angeles (ADSLA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and awareness of Art Deco as a major influence on the 20th century and beyond. The ADSLA has joined with local organizations, as well as Art Deco Societies around the world, to protect the architectural treasures and better educate the public on the importance of historic preservation to the community.

Hot Off the Press

Our work has been featured in California Homes magazine! Thank you and congratulations to Paul Williger Architects and Nancy Isaacs Interior Design for collaborating with us.

CA Homes Sept 2017

 

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